New Opening Creates Opening for Unwanted Contact of Birth Parents, According to Attorney Lynda Hinkle
After three decades of effort by lobbyists to pass a bill amending the state's adoption records policy, on May 27, 2014, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie signed a bill into law that will make those records available to adoptees.
"The new law is viewed as a win by many advocates for adoptees' rights," said New Jersey attorney Lynda Hinkle (http://lyndahinkle.com) but there are some aspects of the law that raise serious privacy concerns."
The law, scheduled to take effect in 2017, amends previous legislation to make original birth certificates available to adoptees over the age of 18 and to some of their close family members. Previously, original birth records of adoptees were sealed and could only be opened by court order. The law also makes birth parents' medical and family histories available to those parties and provides the birth parents with options regarding future contact by their biological children.
"Perhaps that last provision is the most important," Hinkle said. "It allows parents to decide if they'd like to be contacted, either directly or through an intermediary, or not to be contacted. It provides both birth parents and their children a new mechanism for future contact, if both parties desire it.
"However," Hinkle warned, "the release of the birth certificate does create privacy concerns for parents who do not want contact. Investigations using information from the birth certificates could possibly lead to contact, despite the birth parents' wishes. The privacy of the birth parents, previously granted to them by law, has been retroactively compromised. Unfortunately this opens the door to further privacy infringements."
Testimony during the bill hearings focused on the desire of many birth parents for connection with the children they gave up. "The testimony seemed to indicate that the wishes of parents who desired contact superseded those with privacy concerns," said Hinkle, "but then, those with privacy concerns probably wouldn't be making public testimony.
"Overall, the new law does add some improvements to the state's policies. For instance, the provision making medical and family histories available to adoptees could aid in adoptees' medical treatment or reveal genetic predispositions to certain illnesses," said Hinkle, "But the privacy concerns are valid and may lead to challenges to the new law.
"It will be interesting to see how these issues are addressed in future court rulings, after the law takes effect."
About Lynda L. Hinkle:
Lynda L. Hinkle, Esq. is the Founder and Managing Partner of The Law Offices of Lynda L. Hinkle, LLC, a family, elder, estate and general practice law firm with locations throughout Southern New Jersey. She serves on a number of committees for Rutgers University, including the Recent Graduate Council of the Rutgers Camden School of Law and the Rutgers Camden Alumni Board, the Rowan University Alumni Board, the Board of the Volunteer Center of South Jersey and is actively involved in political, community and non-profit causes throughout the region. For more information, call 856-227-7888 or visit lyndahinkle.com.